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Buckley rides to Buckley: Cross-country biker makes a pit stop in eponymous city
Buckley City Hall was graced with a surprise Wednesday morning when a bicyclist by the name of Ryan Buckley stopped in to say hello to Mayor Pat Johnson and staff. The 24-year-old stopped by near the tail end of a trip that began in Virginia Beach, Va.
Buckley is actually a Boston native and a recent graduate of University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. He spent his first year out of school working odd jobs. Then, he just decided to pick up and go.
"I still don't know (what motivated me), really," he said. "I just wanted to see the U.S., and I thought this would be a good way to do it."
"Back roads, too," Deputy City Clerk Joanne Starr said. "Have you ever read 'Blue Highways?' It was written by a teacher named William Least, about his road trip across the country. He had lost his wife, lost his job, and he decided to find himself on a cross-country road trip only taking the back roads—the blue roads—on his map."
He listened, interested, and promised to give the book a read.
Buckley's own journey began in Virginia Beach, just off the couch and onto a Scattante road bike saddled with 140 pounds of gear. He had originally planned to hike the Appalachian trail until a knee injury rendered extended walks difficult. The rotational motion of pedaling was much easier on the joints, and provided an alternative challenge.
He departed the East Coast with a friend, another sedentary soul who wanted to challenge himself. The journey was difficult from the start, dominated by the hilly terrain on the eastern side of the Mississippi River.
The land flattened out by the time they reached Illinois, but once they had passed through Missouri and into Kansas, the oppressive summer heat presented an entirely new obstacle. The state averaged 106 degrees on any given day, Buckley said.
An endless flat landscape of corn and wheat fields made shelter hard to come by as well.
"Probably one of the more difficult things was shelter and shade," he said.
But not impossible. Buckley did stay in a handful of hotels on his trip, but he found he could almost always rely on the kindness of strangers.
"You get to meet a lot of people on the road," he said. "I've stayed with a ton of people I met. They would let me crash on a couch or set up my tent in their backyard."
Buckley and his friend also stumbled across likeminded adventurers on the road, another biking group journeying to the San Francisco Bay Area. This was a trained and athletic group, and Buckley and companion expected their passage to be swift. But to their own surprise they kept up and, when they were passed, they caught up.
"I haven't been alone in the longest time," Buckley said. "That really surprised me."
As they racked up miles, Buckley shucked possessions he deemed unnecessary, bringing 140 pounds down to 50. The journey has made him leaner, stronger. The pain in his knee almost completely disappeared, he said.
By the time Buckley reached Buckley, he was ready to move on to Mt. Rainier. From there, he doesn't know how he will proceed. He seemed amenable to biking further down the western coast.
Even so, he won't be returning home via bike.
"No, I'm pretty tired," he said. "I'm looking forward to taking a train back to the east coast."